Scientists in the US have designed a new Alzheimerâ€™s drug which has been shown to improve memory in mice. The mechanism of the drug is thought to differ from most others in development and provides a new direction for treatment research.
The scientists from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California used the chemical structure of the curry spice curcumin to design a set of new drugs. They found one of these drugs, called J147, was particularly effective at protecting rat brain cells from the toxic effects of stress seen in the brain during Alzheimerâ€™s.
The drug could also promote the activity of brain cells in the lab and enhance the ability of rats to remember objects in an object recognition task. In mice generated to develop symptoms of Alzheimerâ€™s disease, the drug could improve performance on a memory task and reduce some of the signs of the disease.
Most of the drugs currently under development for Alzheimerâ€™s target a protein called amyloid, known to build up in the brain during the disease. However, many of these drugs have shown disappointing results when tested in humans. The J147 drug was not designed to target amyloid, but to promote activity of brain cells and strengthen communication between them.
The researchers, whose work is published in the journalÂ PLoS ONE, hope that this drug will show promise in further tests and could provide a new strategy for the treatment of Alzheimerâ€™s disease.
Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimerâ€™s Research UK, the UKâ€™s leading dementia research charity, said:
â€œWith an estimated half a million people in the UK living with Alzheimerâ€™s, there is a pressing need to develop new and effective drugs. The study has shown promising effects of the J147 drug in mice, now the test will be to see whether these benefits could transfer safely into humans.
â€œWe hope that there will be enough interest and investment from drug companies and other funders to take on this challenge and transform initial findings like these into real patient benefits.â€
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